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ad No. 11 Northern Iowa (2-2, 1-0) to its first 2-0 league start since 2011 on S

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    LAS VEGAS -- The family vacation was planned months in advance. As soon as free agency was over, DeAndre Jordan was heading to a resort in Jamaica where -- theoretically -- he would put his phone in airplane mode, surround himself with family and friends, and all the noise would stop.That was the plan, anyway.If you followed NBA free agency in the slightest last July, you know what actually happened. Three days after committing to the Dallas Mavericks, Jordan had a stunning change of heart and returned to the Los Angeles Clippers.In the time it took to fill out a customs form on the flight to Jamaica, Jordan became a villain in Dallas, an accidental hero in Los Angeles and the butt of jokes on late-night talk shows, social media and sports talk radio.He tried to keep his phone off, but there was no escaping the fallout.One day as he was sitting on the beach, he got a text from Kevin Durant. Theyd been close since high school when Durant tried to persuade Jordan to attend the University of Texas with him. Jordan instead chose Texas A&M, so they drifted apart for a few years. Eventually they reconnected during summer workouts. And in the past few years, theyd grown much closer. So close, in fact, that the Mavericks hoped landing Jordan in free agency would give them an edge in the Durant sweepstakes the following summer.Durant said his message to Jordan was simple: I just let him know, Man, whatever you do. Youve got people that love you.It was the kind of thing you say to a friend to let him know you cant make things better for him, but youre still in his corner.I feel like the people who talked to me afterwards are my real friends, Jordan said this week, after a training session with Team USA. The people who stopped texting me afterwards, the ones who said stuff like were family and all that while I was deciding, that wasnt real. I realize it was only a basketball decision for them.You find out who is really on your side. And Kevin was like, Man, you cant worry about what other people think. Youve got to worry about you and what makes you happy.Fast-forward a year and Durant is the one who spent his summer in the middle of a free-agency squall and made a stunning decision that brought withering criticism from fans, peers and media critics.No, he didnt commit to one team and then renege a few days later. But after eight years of telling the fans in Oklahoma City that he loved them and wanted to retire there, his departure for the Golden State Warriors came as a cruel shock.Had he misled them all those years? Did he fall out of love? Or was his love never that pure to begin with?Durant felt all of it. If hes being honest, knowing how much he was about to hurt the fans in Oklahoma City was one of the things that nearly held him back from following his gut and signing with the Warriors. For 48 hours after picking the Warriors, he said he stayed inside the house hed rented in the Hamptons while receiving free-agent pitches from the Warriors, Celtics, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Heat.I didnt leave my bed, because I was like, Man, if I walk outside somebody might just try to hit me with their car or say anything negative to me, Durant said. I just stayed in and tried to process it all. ... It felt different.Very different.Durant hasnt been the boyish, backpack-wearing homegrown superstar most people first came to know him as for a while now. First he went through the KD is not nice phase where he was like a child star trying to break out of a wholesome, prepubescent box by releasing a song about being naughty (See: Selena Gomez, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber).Then he started copping an occasional attitude at the media for perceived slights to him, his teammates or any player in the NBA who he thought was getting unfair treatment.But there was always something about Durants defiance that felt a little forced. Like he was just pushing boundaries or asserting his independence from the nice-guy image that had gone way too far and escaped reality a long time ago.He is nice. Hes just not the saint people projected him to be.For example: Last fall he turned down a half-dozen requests for an ESPN The Magazine story. Hed decided to stay silent until he could explain his feelings about free agency on The Players Tribune. Fine. Totally his prerogative. He believed in the Tribunes business model and message of player empowerment. I can respect that. But when we saw each other at Thunder media day, he came over to explain himself in person.How many NBA superstars do that? Most tell an agent or publicist to deliver their bad news and never address it personally. And yet because wed always had a good professional relationship, Durant felt compelled to explain himself in person. It was an incredibly self-aware, sensitive thing to do.Thats just a small example without much consequence. So how in the world was he going to handle breaking the hearts of a city that loved him? Of going from hero to villain? Of being criticized by Hall of Famers like Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley for taking an easier path to a championship?This week in Las Vegas has been Durants first taste of life as a heartbreaker, and it appears hes only allowing himself to feel it in doses.The full weight of the fallout is too much to process all at once.I just try to be the man in the arena, Durant said. Its easy for the critics on the outside to tell you what to do or what decisions to make, but they werent just out here with me, putting in work.I cant really worry about the outside noise. I have to go to work. The work dont stop. The love of the game doesnt fade. Everything stays the same no matter where I play.This has become one of Durants refrains. A self-affirmation of sorts.Some players would get off on being disliked -- whether the sentiment is real or just a projection -- and use it as motivation. But thats not Durants nature.Guys like Kobe [Bryant] thrive on it, said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, a longtime Team USA assistant. I dont think Kevin will thrive on it. But I do think he will immerse himself into the [Warriors] team.Another key difference?When you come into town as the villain like Kobe, everybodys focused on him because he was the best player. But when Golden State comes in, theyre not going to just focus on one guy, Boeheim said.That was clearly part of the appeal to joining the Warriors. After years of being the face of his franchise, with the hopes and dreams of a city all on his shoulders, Durant was drawn to the idea of being just one of the guys.Thats part of what he said hes always loved about Team USA and what helped him this week as he adjusts to this new reality.This uncomfortable period may be good for Durant in the end. Making a decision he knew would be unpopular? Maybe thats the personal evolution and growth he needs. Maybe it wont be. In hindsight, Jordan said that hes found the entire process to be clarifying.It definitely makes you tougher, Jordan said. I still joke around like a little kid, but I dont get as mad as I used to about things, I dont let stuff affect me like I used to, because Ive gone through that crap.He hopes itll be that way for Durant as well.When I found out he was going to the Warriors, I texted him, Man, Im happy for you. This is going to be big. I cant wait to kick yalls ass, Jordan said.Im happy for him. He gave those guys [in Oklahoma City] nine great years of MVP-level basketball, a Finals appearance. He played his heart out for that team. If they cant respect that, if other players cant respect it, thats their decision. At the end of the day, hes happy and thats the only person he has to satisfy.Durant was sitting one seat away from Jordan as they each spoke after practice on the third day of Team USA training camp. There was plenty of room on either side of them. But the two old friends seemed more comfortable crowding each others personal space.If things were destined to be uncomfortable going forward, they had might as well lean on each other. Tony Gwynn Jersey. Brad Jacobs and his Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., team took control of the game early. Wil Myers Jersey. The injury bothered Bledsoe in the Suns victory over the Clippers on Monday and he sat out the teams home loss to Memphis on Thursday night. -- Sergey Tolchinksy scored his second goal of the game 3:56 into overtime as the Sault Ste. Dave Winfield Jersey. Deulofeu injured a muscle in his right leg in Evertons 4-1 win over Fulham in the English Premier League on Saturday. Barcelona says that its team doctors will "co-ordinate" with Evertons medical staff as Deulofeu recovers. Custom San Diego Padres Jerseys. First off, the fans ripped the Cubbies introduction of a fuzzy new kid-friendly mascot named "Clark". Though Youngstown State continues to move up in the STATS FCS Top 25, Bo Pelini isnt exactly pleased with how his Penguins have performed during their fifth consecutive 3-1 start.The second-year coach made that perfectly clear after Youngstown State committed four turnovers and had to hold on late in last weekends 30-20 home win over South Dakota. In the wake of that victory, the Penguins jumped from 20th to 15th in the poll.I expect more, Pelini said. There were some guys who absolutely played their tails off, but you need 11 on every snap. Its as simple as that and if youre not getting it, youre not going to be the type of football team you want to be.Pelini is hoping to see crisper execution as his squad goes after a third straight victory Saturday at No. 23 Illinois State.The Redbirds (2-3, 0-2 Missouri Valley Football Conference) are looking to avoid their first four-game losing streak since 2004 as they havent won since a 9-7 victory at Northwestern on Sept. 10, but theyve taken five straight home meetings in this series. They should have some extra incentive to get back on track in this matchup with a large homecoming crowd expected in Normal.Theres no finger pointing going on right now, so I really have to complaints about how theyre preparing. Its just execution in critical parts of games, said Redbirds coach Brock Spack. We have some young or inexperienced players at critical positions and theyre learning. Were going through growing pains right now.Spack seems most concerned with a Youngstown State rushing attack that easily paces the MVFC with 262.8 yards per game. Martin Ruiz ranks first with six rushing touchdowns and second with 367 yards, while Tevin McCaster has 242 yards and two scores.Ruiz finished with 84 yards on 18 carries and also caught a 13-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds left before the Penguins two-point try failed in a 31-29 home loss to the Redbirds last October.Junior Ricky Davis provides Youngstown State (3-1, 1-0) with a dual-threat at quarterback. Hes thrown for 657 yards with four touchdowns and rushed for 202 yards. Though he threw his first two interceptions of the season last Saturday, Davis set career highs with 281 passing yards and 21 rushing attempts against the Coyotes.Illinois State may lead the conference in passs defense with 183.dddddddddddd8 yards allowed per game, but its secondary gave up some big plays in last weekends 31-10 loss at top-ranked North Dakota State. The Redbirds also have given up 402 rushing yards and yielded 65 points over their last two games.I expect that were going to get their best shot, said Pelini, who admits this will be his teams toughest test since a 38-21 loss to West Virginia. Im not worried about Illinois State. Im worried about us, getting us right and increasing our level or execution.Star defensive end Derek Rivers has done his part, sitting in a tie for third in the league with four sacks. Avery Moss also has tormented quarterbacks with three sacks for the Penguins, who rank second in total defense with 300.8 yards allowed per game.The Redbirds, eighth in rushing offense, would certainly like to run the ball better to help neutralize Rivers and Moss, but leading rusher George Moreira (287 yards, 3 TDs) could be out for the season due to a broken collarbone. Those duties could fall to second-leading rusher Jamal Towns, though Spack hinted that true freshman James Robinson also might be given an opportunity.---AROUND THE MVFC=The only matchup between league unbeatens takes place Saturday when Missouri State (3-1, 1-0) hosts No. 1 North Dakota State (4-0, 1-0). The Bears, coming off their first victory over a ranked foe since 2013, will try to end the Bisons 13-game winning streak.Quarterback Aaron Bailey, who had four touchdowns in a 42-21 win over Southern Illinois last weekend, looks to lead No. 11 Northern Iowa (2-2, 1-0) to its first 2-0 league start since 2011 on Saturday when the Panthers travel to South Dakota (1-3, 0-1).No. 13 Western Illinois (3-1, 0-1) hopes to bounce back from its first loss, a 52-14 beating at South Dakota State, on Saturday when it welcomes Indiana State (3-2, 1-1) to Macomb. The Leathernecks have won the last three meetings.No. 12 South Dakota State (2-2, 1-0), which is averaging a league-best 45 points, will try to keep putting up big numbers Saturday night when it visits Southern Illinois (2-2, 0-1). The Salukis allowed 42 in a 21-point loss at Northern Iowa last week. Wholesale Jerseys ' ' '

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